12 November 2013

A Mediterranean beach

Allan Hale writes:
"I have been reading Mediterranean Gull rings on the beach at Great Yarmouth since 1999. Of late a group of us have been taking the project much more seriously and we try to make a monthly visit during the period from late summer until the end of winter.

Since the 2009-10 winter we have identified 58 different Mediterranean Gulls that were ringed in 10 different countries.  They have originated from Belgium (32), Germany (12), France (3), Poland (3), U.K. (2), The Netherlands (2), Denmark (1), Czech Republic (1), Hungary (1) and Serbia (1).  There have been multiple sightings of many of these gulls.  Many valuable life histories have been identified, with some of the birds mentioned above also visiting Spain, Portugal and The Azores.

Mediterranean Gull - Dawn Balmer

Mediterranean Gulls have been shown to reach a ripe old age. Three of the birds we have seen this winter were originally ringed in 2001, one of them already 3 years old when ringed. We are anxiously looking out for another which was ringed back in 1999 and last seen at Great Yarmouth during late 2012.

Reading colour-rings has been a rewarding experience. Many onlookers have shown an interest in what we have been doing and have been amazed at the results."

Lee Barber writes:
"Even with all the data collected of colour ringed birds, there are still quite a few unringed birds that visit the site, that we know nothing about. Allan decided to take this project to another level and with the help of Jez Blackburn and his Cannon Netting skills and the kind permission of Seafront Enforcement and Facilities Officer, Keith Eglington, an attempt to catch and ring some of the unringed birds and to collect biometric data on the ones that already have rings was organised.

Now a scarce regular breeding bird, about 20 chicks are ringed every year and the annual total for adult Med Gulls for the last nine years vary from none to eight. These birds can be very wary to anything unusual but hopes were high for a catch, even if it was just one bird (see online report).

Canon net firing - David Pelling

After a couple of canon net fires and 15 unringed and 3 ringed in Belgium Med Gulls were safe under the net, with a few Black-headed Gulls. They were then metal and colour ringed, aged, weighed and measured and then released. We were lucky to have a reasonably large catch and we were able to compare the different ages of birds (below). The second year bird has a light orange beak but more importantly has black wing tips.

Mediterranean Gull. First year bird left, second year bird middle, adult right - David Pelling
Hopefully as the winter goes on, more gulls will be ringed and add to our knowledge of the survival and movements of this species. Some birds visiting Great Yarmouth have been seen more than 200 times so the life histories of these birds is fascinating.

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